Matthew starts out in a way that will make many think of the Old Testament, with a genealogy, describing the ancestry of Jesus. Indeed, the book of Matthew can rightly be described as the “gospel to the Jews,” as it quotes more Old Testament passages than any of the other three gospels. Jews were very particular about their lineage, as it established their right to be God’s chosen people. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., however, extinguished the family lines, as the documents that contained the names in their heritage were destroyed. To this day, no Jew can trace their lineage before that, keeping the question in their minds perennially: how can I know for sure?

            Genealogies, however, were important to the Jews for a number of reasons, but mostly because it established identity. Jesus was promised to come from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), and the Hebrew writer confirms this as well (Heb. 7:14). When we look at the other Old Testament passages, such as Micah 5:2 and Zechariah 9:9, we see the prophecies being fulfilled with Jesus as the king of the Jews. The line of David, one of royalty, would produce a messiah, king and priest, which Hebrews 5:5-11 proves is Jesus the Christ. Final proof is shown upon examining the genealogy given in Matthew 1:6, describing “David the King” as in the family of Jesus.

            The genealogy of Matthew can be divided up into three distinct divisions: Abraham to David (v.2-6), David’s kingdom to Babylonian captivity (v.6-11), and Babylonian captivity to Christ (v.12-16). A closer look will show something unorthodox in most genealogies: women. Matthew not only includes one woman, but five, and some who had less than spectacular reputations among the world: Tamar (Genesis 38:6-30), Rahab (Joshua 2:1-24), and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:1-27).

            Common objections to this genealogy are that Matthew skipped generations in his recount of Jesus’ lineage. The important point to make here is not that Matthew skipped them, but that the genealogy was deliberately abridged. Compare Ezra 7:3 with 1 Chronicles 6:7-10, and you will see that this was not scripturally inaccurate. Another objection is that the names on this list were different than the other genealogy of Jesus given in Luke 3. The reason for this being that Luke went through the line of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Matthew goes through Joseph. Notice also the split in the family tree at the sons of David, Matthew claiming Solomon, with Luke claiming Nathan.

            First-century Jews were most often very knowledgeable about their family line. While it is known that many refuted Jesus’ teachings, they could never dismiss Jesus’ legitimate claim as the son of David. These different verses give credibility to our Savior, and, knowing without a shadow of a doubt his rightful fulfillment of the prophecies, we must not dabble in “endless genealogies” as 1 Timothy 1:4 says, but to focus on the “administration of God by faith.” After all, the family line of God’s people is no longer furthered by blood, but by obedience.

Last modified: January 22, 2019